YET another threat to traditional British farming has been identified by the NFU - a growing shortage of farms for rent, either privately or county council owned.
Tenant farms have for generations between the entry point to agriculture for "new blood" from non-farming backgrounds - and such an infusion of enthusiasm and new thinking is desperately needed as established farmers leave the lands in their tens of thousands each year.
The NFU has made a study of the problem which shows that such farms are disappearing for three reasons:
- They are being amalgamated into ever bigger units
- Land is being sold off by purchasers only interested in developing the farm buildings
- And county councils, which have traditionally let out farms as part of their vocational training programmes, are so short of cash that they are being forced to sell them off.
To combat the problem, the union yesterday launched Manifesto for Tenants, calling for the co-operation of landowners, lenders, local authorities and government to tackle the hurdles facing would-be farmers looking to rent.
Said NFU Vice President Michael: "The high cost of land has made renting one of the few routes for 'fresh blood' into farming. It is vital, therefore, that we halt the decline in the number of traditional tenant holdings and ensure that the prospect of taking on a tenancy is attractive enough to encourage people to take the plunge - and to stay."